HOW THE PORTRAYAL OF LIBERAL AMERICANS BY THE RIGHT WING MEDIA REFERENCES THE JIM CROW MOVEMENT
A NARRATIVE THAT ENABLES VIOLENCE AGANST US AS IT DID AGAINST BLACKS
If you haven’t kept up with the right wing’s latest attacks on liberals for protesting and resisting Trump then you probably will disagree with me that I believe that we are heading for new wave of violence against liberal demonstrators, protesters and resistors as well as against free speech and the continued diminishment of basic civil and human rights right here in America. We’ve seen such actions before during the Civil Rights and Anti-Vietnam War days of the 1960’s. With our backs against the well, as they surely are today, and the national atmosphere even more repressive with the Trump Administration, you can depend on it.
Why do I say what’s happening to us today resembles what happened to African Americans during Jim Crow? In no way do I intend to portray the “plight” of liberals and progressives today as analogous to the post Civil War situation of African Americans following the passage of the 13th Amendment. In fact, slavery didn’t end in 1865. It was replaced by a system of criminalizing African Americans. Arrests for minor “crimes” – not giving way to white folks on a public sidewalk or talking back (being “disrespectful” to a white women – that supplied desperately needed labor, prison labor in this case, for the rebuilding of the devastated South. The later Jim Crow laws in the South was the cause of the greatest migration in American history, save for the forced removal of Native Americans, as Blacks fled the physical and psychological violence they faced living in the South. Arguably, the after affects of Jim Crow, segregation and racism still exist today.
None of us liberals as a group have experienced the kind of violence and repression as have African Americans. But here’s the point of my headlines for this piece:
When the public airwaves are daily filled with the false narratives and anti-liberal rants of Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones and now Donald Trump and the vast panoply of right wing liberal haters rave on about how we are destroying America, (and this theme has been popular among the right wingers for about three decades now) this narrative sets up a general national atmosphere that enables the vilification of liberals and progressives to take hold and spread like a virus. Take the recent adoption of laws criminalizing the “impedance of the flow of traffic on public streets” (read: criminalizing liberal protests) that 18 states are considering or have adopted. Or take the seven states that have adopted laws that label liberal activists attempting to expose the cruelties of the agriculture industry as “terrorism.” States that have adopted such statutes were assisted by ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) who provided model legislation for these and other anti-democratic, anti-liberal pieces of legislation. Ask yourself why it is that there isn’t a Federal Commission investigation, not into fantasy illegal votes like the bogus Trump commission, but to investigate the discriminatory effects and disenfranchising impacts of Voter ID laws (models also provided by ALEC). Since 2010, 20 states have adopted such laws.
The conservative cries of the Deep State embedded in the Federal Government out to overturn the Trump Presidency is only the latest of the false claims perpetrated by the right wing against liberals and progressives. But this effort goes back much further. Ronald Reagan was the first 20th Century President, that I’m aware of, to publicly castigate and vilify liberals and progressives. “It isn't so much that liberals are ignorant. It's just that they know so many things that aren't so.” “As government expands, liberty contracts.” “How do you tell a Communist? Well, it’s someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-Communist? It’s someone who understands Marx and Lenin.” “Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged.” All pretty much anti-liberal sentiments. Nearly all of Reagan’s policies are still with us today: Tough on Crime; Government is Bad; Welfare Users are Lazy; War On Drugs; Tax Cuts Create Jobs; etc. etc. etc.
While Reagan laid the initial groundwork for our decidedly anti-liberal atmosphere today, it was Bill Clinton who actually implemented many of the policies that Reagan espoused. Yes. Ultra-Liberal Bill Clinton. Why? Politics. To Get Elected. With the adoption of Clinton’s Crime Bill the United States embarked on an unprecedented prison construction program. Clinton’s “Three Strikes and You’re Out,” mandatory prison sentences, work requirements for Welfare recipients, set the country firmly on a path to a wave of conservatism (anti-liberalism) that Reagan only hinted at. It is all very much still with us today. Today, Corrections Corporation Of America is the nation’s largest private prison builders and managers. Over the last 30 years, CCA has benefited from the dramatic rise in incarceration and detention in the United States. Since the company’s founding in 1983, the incarcerated population has risen by more than 500 percent to more than 2.2 million people. Meanwhile, the number of people held in immigration detention centers (CCC builds these too) has exploded from an average daily population of 131 people to over 32,000 people on any given day. And just in case you didn’t know, CCC’s contracts with the states require that the prisons they managed be filled with prisoners. (Actually, they require states to pay for a fixed number of prisoners whether or not there are actual human beings populating the prisons.) The brief respite from the decades of continual erosion of liberal ideals that accompanied the Obama Administration is rapidly being tossed in the trashbin by Trump and his cronies.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has just re-instituted property seizure rules that Obama had outlawed because the seizure program had basically become a cash register for police departments all across the country. Only Sessions has added a twist: no longer is property only seized after an arrest and conviction but now law officers can do it before. Also note that it was Ronald Reagan who removed the White House rooftop solar panels Carter had installed. That was back in 1981. Thirty –six years later, ALEC is providing states with model legislation to repeal electrical energy buyback programs that have sparked enormous growth of alternate energy sources.
From Reagan in 1980 until Trump in 2017 the anti-liberal atmosphere in America has been insidiously growing more pervasive and more harsh. With Trump this phenomenon has seen a quantum leap.
Last night there was a report on PBS’ “News Hours” about a News Hour researcher, Elizabeth Flock, who travelled to ultra-progressive, Portland Oregon, to find out what it’s like as a conservative female Trump supporter in a decidedly liberal environment. [The News Hour Clip is here: WHAT'S IS LIKE BEING A TRUMP SUPPORTER IN A LIBERAL CITY] Flock’s report on her on-the-ground research chronicled the many ways that Portland’s female Trump supporters are maligned, mocked, intimidated and dissed by leftist liberals. The title of her piece basically says it all: “For Trump Supporters In Portland, The Left Is The Face Of Intolerance.” [Flock’s report is here: LIVING IN PORTLAND AS A TRUMP SUPPORTER]
The picture of liberal, leftist intolerance towards these Trump supporters includes such epithets as racists, bigots, being de-friended on Facebook and other such indignities. Ironically, given Trump’s ban of transgender people in the military, one of the woman interviewed by Flock is transgender, Athena Brown. When Brown came out as transgender in 2013, she says that only two friends stopped speaking to her. When she came out as Republican, she remembered being blocked by roughly 100 people on Facebook, mostly from the LGBTQ community, she said.
All the incidents Flock chronicles I don’t dispute but I would say that there is no hard evidence provided to support all the incidents the interviewees cite. But let’s assume that the folks are being truthful and there are video clips or Portland protests to back them up.
Here’s a couple of examples from Flock’s report:
“At a recent rally she attended, a protest against the supposed spread of sharia law in America, (fears are based on ) a man with his “rage level at 10” came up to her and screamed that she was a Nazi, according to Townsend. It’s a kind of reaction she has come to expect from the left.”
“As Church walked her dog near her home in Salem, a man confronted her for wearing a Trump hat. “Your kind isn’t wanted here,” she recalled him saying. “You need to just leave.”
“In mid-June, another rally was planned, this time at Evergreen State College, a liberal arts college two hours north of Portland. The rally, organized by Trump supporters, was to defend the free speech rights of a professor who criticized an event called “A Day Without Whites.” In a , , and also demanded he be fired.”
“When Townsend and the rest of her group arrived, Antifa activists immediately began calling out: “ignorant!” “fascists!” and “white supremacists!” Many gave them the middle finger. Perhaps to taunt them back, a male leader of the pro-Trump group walked, with some swagger, up to a member of Antifa and said: “What’s up brother?” as he tried to shake his hand. Within minutes, another Antifa activist smashed a can of Silly String against his head. After he walked away, a third Antifa activist pepper-sprayed him, so that he was wet and bleeding and crying.”
[The Sharia law bullshit is typical of the right wing’s penchant for making up fake news and fake issues and then use these fantastical conspiracies as a means to discredit us liberals.]
I don't have much sympathy for their complaints. After years of right wing abuse targeting liberals they have discovered what it's like to be on the opposite side of the equation.
But Flock’s report is focused on today, on post-Trump election protests, demonstrations and acts of resistance that have skyrocketed as a result of Trump’s election. It might be worthwhile noting that hate crimes have also skyrocketed since Trump took office. Nowhere in her report, however, is any mention of history. No mention of the decades long vilification of progressives and liberals. Not a word about the number of LGBT men and woman subjected to hate crimes and killed over the past decades. No mention of why it is that Portland’s liberals and progressives have become more militant in their public protests; not a word about how the pathway to Trump’s election has come after decades of liberal bashing and progressive sliming by right wing pundits and conservative media.
Trump, to us liberals and progressives, was simply the last straw, the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back that has resulted in much more “pointed” protests and demonstrations. But Trump’s election comes with a history and here’s the point: Did the Trump women profiled in Flock’s article protest the adoption of Voter ID Laws? The labeling of the Black Lives Matter organization as a “terrorist organization” by the right wing media? Did they write their Senators and Congressmen to object to the criminalization of liberals trying to expose animal cruelty? Did they take to the streets when the Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby had the right to deny woman birth control coverage in the company’s health insurance?
Naturally I don’t know. But my guess is that these women did not. After all, as conservatives, none of the legislation, none of the liberal media bashing, none of the anti-liberal laws or Supreme Court rulings impacted their lives. I doubt that they took to the streets when Westboro Baptist Church demonstrated against the LGBT community and the military or when the Bundy family defied Federal law and held a National Park hostage in pursuit of their bogus cause. As noted above, liberals and progressives feel as if our backs are against the wall. And the campaign against us hasn't slowed, in fact it's gotten a huge boost from Trump. Yes, we are frustrated. We are angry. We are very, very pissed off to see so much of what we've worked and struggled for so long, simply being systematically wiped out by the Trump Administration. To us it seems that nothing can stop this wave of anti-liberalism, anti-democratic and anti-freedom efforts by conservatives that began decades ago. Perhaps if the Trump women in Flock’s piece had paid attention during this period, they might have a much better understanding about why Portland’s liberal and progressive community has become more intolerant and more vociferous against them. But it didn’t matter to them. It just wasn’t a part of their lives. But it is and continues to be a part of our lives. Every day of our lives.
Part Two is coming soon.